Breaking down the 'Yooper' accent

GVSU professor to discuss identity, dialect in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

By Nick Kondyles | 9/13/17 9:33pm

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GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu

This week, Grand Valley State University's Kutsche Office of Local History is bringing in Kathryn Remlinger, professor of English at GVSU, to speak about dialect and identity in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

All students are invited to attend the LIB 100/201-approved event in Room 2270 of the Kirkhof Center Thursday, Sept. 14, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

“We work with a variety of on-campus and off-campus partners to support our mission of giving voice to diverse communities through history,” said Kimberly McKee, director of the Kutsche Office. “Dr. Remlinger’s book captures the cultural diversity of the Upper Peninsula.”

During the event, Remlinger will read from her book, "Yooper Talk: Dialect as Identity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula," and afterward, attendees will be invited to participate in an open-forum discussion. Copies of Remlinger's book will be available for sale in the back.  

“The book focuses on identity, what it means to be a Yooper and how it sounds to be a Yooper,” Remlinger said. 

The professor will delve into topics such as the term “Yoopanese,” the origin of souvenirs and tourism in the U.P., research in studying vowel sounds, and the dialect’s close relationship to the southern Canadian accent.

“It’s such a popular topic," Remlinger said. "People are interested in Michigan and language, our badge of identity. My hope is to create language awareness, give examples from my book of language prejudices and linguistic stereotypes. Awareness makes changes. 

I’ll talk about my research methods, speak and use anecdotes to show that words change in identifiable regions.”

Remlinger works across the Holland area, focusing on the topic of Michigan’s local history. This fall, she will continue with a new project in collaboration with students, focusing on connections in language and dialect in Holly, Michigan, within the field of applied linguistics. 

In addition to the event held in the Kirkhof Center, the Kutsche Office of Local History is hosting a variety of events this fall. The events will focus on diversity in terms of cultural and religious identity and dialect. 

There will be a panel screening and discussion of the Emmy-nominated documentary "We the 7th," which explores West Michigan’s Native community and the largest Native gathering since Wounded Knee, in the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons Tuesday, Sept. 26. 

“We’ll also be hosting a screening and discussion of 'Race, Riot and Reconciliation' in the Cook-DeWitt Center in October,” Mckee said. “These events are important in thinking in terms of belonging in a local context.”

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